The camel ride was something else. I knew this might be a challenge for us and as we met and mounted our camel for the trip, I hoped Gilbert’s back wouldn’t throw out. “You okay?”I called back unable to turn for fear of falling, but the wind snatches my words. I twist a little more. “I’m trying to roll with it. Maybe try not to tense up but I’ve got voltarin in my bag if you need it”, I shout. “Yep, he calls. Might be a bit stiff tonight after this though.”
I close my eyes and listen for the phlomf, phlomf, phlomf and sure enough it’s there. Sure and steady, they carry us through the dunes. I really have to pinch myself as this is soo unbelievable. Here we are on the cusp of sunset with the dunes rising and falling all around us in a delicate shade of tangerine ice cream as if a silk scarf was lifted and let fall ever so softly in gentle folds.
We were in a caravan and what was running through my mind? The song the children learnt at school and sang with actions for Gilbert’s Mother, who’s name was Alice.
‘Alice the Camel has, one hump. Alice the camel has, one hump, Alice the camel has, one hump (they quickly turn themselves around and swaying their bum from side to side sing) so go Alice go, boom, boom, boom…” I remembered Gilbert’s Mum laughing like anything as they resume position and sing through the numbers. I now know however that in actual fact these, which do only have one hump are actually dromedary. Camels have two humps and contrary to common belief they don’t store water in there at all. Our guide tells us the hump is really muscle and fatty tissue but they have two stomachs. One stores food and one stores water. I would Google that to
be sure though cause he also told us that they are pregnant for eight weeks when we sat around the fire quizzing him on desert stuff!
Yep thats us. We arrive at camp after an hour of dunes and a view to the Algerian border. The only mishap was Gilbert dropping the camera and not realising for a few minutes and one of the boys running back to try and find it. Yeah….not sure.
When he ran off we were left stranded. I realised something was pressing up against my bum. I put my hand back only to feel teeth, tongue, soft hairy lips and I began to work up into a little scream. Someone told me they have a nasty bite and my bum was already numb but I didn’t fancy a chunk taken out of it. It’s Ok the boy came up to soothe me pulling the camels head back. “It’s ok….he’s just curious.” “Sheesh I said someone told me they bite bad.” “Noooo. They are vegetarian he says. They don’t want to bite you.” We all started to laugh and he headed to the front again and we started the slow steady phlomf, phlomf, phlomf again.
At peak season the group may number up to 45 tourists but we were a small group of just five with two guides. A French couple, Emilie and Christophe with a lovely little six year old daughter and us. Christophe was rugby mad and Emilie could speak good English so she translated for us when needed being some spoke Arabic, and or Spanish, and or French, and or English, but we didn’t all speak one language so there was always some miming or translating going on. We reached the camp and after being shown our ‘room/tent’ thing we were left while the camp boys prepared dinner. We decided to wander up for the sunset photos and before long our men had joined us, still talking rugby. We started taking photos of each other and I quickly slipped my shoes off and we lay in the sand getting some awesome shots with the flashes and didn’t leave until it was really dark with a flashlight to help us. Before dinner we laughed and chatted about trips we had done and Christophe turned out to be a bit of an actor. He had me in hysterics and I must say I haven’t laughed that hard for a while. They could probably hear me in the next Bedouin camp!
He acted out when him and a mate found a Scorpion. Then one of the boys told us about his near miss with a scorpion and we all became very serious and asked, was it here? In this camp? In this sand? “No, no. Not now it is winter he said. Don’t be worried about scorpions. They are out there in the sand. Don’t go out without shoes on he soothed. Inshallah there will be no scorpions.” Hmm, we looked at each other and thought about our big photo shoot earlier when we rolled around the sand with gay abandon. I jumped up thinking I could feel something crawling up my leg. “Nooooo, don’t do that our guide says, they are not here. Don’t worry about scorpions.” “Then I acted out being in Malaysia and sneaking through the long grass to take a photo of the monkeys when we realised we were in bare feet and they had snakes. Christophe acted out visiting a snake exposition and one of the camp boys told us a story about a snake and we stopped and asked. Here? in the camp? In the sand? “No no stop thinking about things like this he said. You will be frightened for no reason….”and so it went on until dinner. It was pretty funny and every now and then when it went quiet the Mexican boy who had just joined us would lean back and say how amazing the night sky was, and we would have to agree. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen at home.
Dinner was delicious with soup and Tagine and fresh fruit and Christophe brings out French red wine and asks us politely. “Do you drink red wine?” “Mais oui!” The boys bought out drums and lit the central fire and the night was ours. A little something was handed around that seemed to help with the drumming lessons and we were in fine spirits by bedtime. I hadn’t been to the toilet so sometime as we were winding down I asked Emilie across the fire if the toilet was where I thought it was, in that direction? She laughed and one of the camp boys said it is all around and pointed right round the circular tents we had set up. Haha! That was soo funny. We ask how long does a camel carry a baby before delivery. Eight weeks he answers pretty confidently once he understands the question. “Nooo!” We all laugh. He is pretty adamant that’s correct. Emilie says a cat or a rabbit in eight weeks but not a camel. This is hilarious in her french accent and the discussion goes round and round in several languages as everyone discusses it.
A bit later on I said to Gilbert I was ready for bed and how about we grab a torch and find the toilet. “The toilets that way?” I pointed and the drums stopped and the singing stopped and the camp boy asks me over the fire. “Number one or number two?” “Number one”, I answer to the hilarity of everybody. I’m not sure this is so funny anymore but I actually have to know now. “Are you sure” he asks? “Yes” I reply like I’m four. “Well, he answers. Anywhere out there really because we have a problem with the toilet right now”. I’m pretty happy I don’t have to do number two, as Gilbert and I head out with a torch and Gilbert shines it right on me when I squat so I can see….much to my horror. Don’t bloody shine it on me! I squeal. Everybody will see me flippin heck!” OMG I can hardly believe it. We slip back in and there’s a bit more singing and one of the African boys gets upto dance to the drum beat which is amazing. Before long we all slip into our tents knowing we have an early start as we must see the sunrise. I look at Gilbert and say this could be a long night trying not to think about scorpions and snakes, but fall into a peaceful slumber immediately and don’t wake until the cock crows…at three am, four am, and five am, which is when I slip out to pee behind a bush in the early morning light just before the sun rises. I know this will be when everyone will be up to take photos and there’s not a lotta bush out there to hide in!